How educating teachers can help learners

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With the Government’s recent announcement to encourage one in five young people to embark on an Apprenticeship, it seems this scheme has the potential to be a significant and leading qualification of the future.

A recent report by the Skills Commission revealed that not enough teenagers in England are beginning Apprenticeships, with part of the reason being due to poor career guidance. The report also states that with teachers being the main provider of careers advice, they must have sufficient training within this area. Here, Nic Robinson, director of business development for VTCT, the leading hair and beauty awarding body, discusses why Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly valuable form of training.

"Academia can commonly seem the obvious route to direct students towards, yet for some learners this is simply not suitable nor appropriate. Many may benefit from a more practical means of learning such as that offered by Apprenticeships. However, it is often the teacher to whom a young person turns to for advice and their experience is generally of an academic route. According to a six-month inquiry launched by independent education foundation, Edge, 56 per cent of the teachers surveyed rate their knowledge of Apprenticeships as poor. This is compared with only eight per cent of teachers who feel they have a poor understanding of university degrees (www. edge.co.uk). With the Government pushing Apprenticeships and striving to boost the number of young people taking them, it has a duty to ensure that educators are well-informed so as to be in a position to support their students’ decision-making process. I truly believe that enhancing teacher awareness of the scheme will enable Apprenticeships to flourish – but what is the Government doing to ensure that teachers are knowledgeable on the matter?

Knowledge is power

The Government is setting out to ensure teachers have an understanding of Apprenticeships, thus ensuring that they have an overall awareness of the various types of training available and how learners can go about securing a position. Teaching is a complex role and does not simply encompass tutoring students in a particular subject but also requires being able to offer guidance relating to the future of a young person. The ability to offer balanced and unbiased yet tailored careers advice is a hugely fundamental contribution to a young person’s life, and if done effectively and from an informed position it can positively impact on a person’s entire life. For example, some young people feel disengaged by the education system - therefore by the time they reach the minimum school leaving age are more than ready to withdraw from education because they have no faith in it.

If teachers are not in a position to be able to educate and encourage their students regarding alternative options to traditional academic routes then there is the concern that the young person could disappear from the education system. In some cases they may lack job skills and consequently not manage to secure steady employment, becoming classed as not in education, employment or training (NEET). Statistics taken between November 2008 to January 2009, show that 110,560 16 to 18 year-olds are currently classed as NEET. What is most worrying is the Government’s latest published statistics reveal that since the recession started, the number of young people classified as NEET has risen significantly. The Government’s Connexions service stated that since 2008 the total number of 16 to 18-year-olds classed as NEETS rose by eight and a half per cent.

Leading the youth of today to success

The young people's minister, Beverley Hughes recently commented: "There has never been a more important time to support young people to participate in education and training beyond 16. The experience that young people gain between the ages of 16 and 19 is crucial to building the skills they need for a successful career and adult life. This could not be more accurate and it is through teachers that a level of this advice and encouragement can be offered. Teachers need to embrace their role and the ability they have to positively influence the future of young peoples’ lives by immersing themselves in the extensive training options available to young people today.

As a teacher, being in a position where you are up-to-date with the latest opportunities in Apprenticeship training can prove invaluable as you could use this to provide educated and valuable guidance. Confronted with a student who is not suited to or driven by academic options and therefore is considering leaving education means that an Apprenticeship could be a potentially ideal solution.

According to the Skills Commission, there are a very limited number of apprentices continuing to higher or advanced further education which suggests the majority are instead moving onto employment as opposed to building on their training. The Skills Commission also reveals that as the Apprenticeship programme is expanded it should not be done so at the cost of quality. It therefore recommends that those providing careers advice, such as teachers “must regularly visit local employers to inform themselves about the local jobs market.

Skills Commission chairman, Barry Sherman, believes that the Government should plough additional funding into educating teachers regarding training opportunities by the Government. This is a step in the right direction. Furthermore, it is also positive that the Government is in the process of preparing the launch of teacher briefing programmes to 50,000 teachers which will cover the suite of available 14-19 education and training options. With the right level of information delivered to teachers, we can endeavour to encourage young people to recognise the benefits of remaining within training.

Raising awareness

The Government and those involved within the education sector must keep trying to push the Apprenticeship message and in the future we can only hope that teachers do become more familiar with this route of learning. If this does not happen then the ambitious targets for participation in Apprenticeships will not be achieved and the talents of many young people will not be developed. If teachers, the people who play a part in offering careers guidance, are not aware of the various opportunities and choices then how can we expect young people to make informed decisions most suited to their needs?

Andy Powell, chief executive of Edge recently said: "Teachers are one of the main sources of careers advice to young people so it is a real travesty that they don't have a good knowledge of Apprenticeships, or the value placed on this form of learning by parents. The fact that teachers have admitted they have a good knowledge of University degrees highlights the deep-seated bias towards academic qualifications within our education system. We strongly believe that apprentices will play an integral role in helping the UK survive and thrive in the current economic climate.”

It is one of VTCT’s objectives to support young people and help them realise that there are numerous routes to achieving success – academia is only one of these. Teachers need to support young people to understand this and be prepared to explore their options."

Nic Robinson, director of business development, VTCT

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